White-collar worker

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White-collar workers perform tasks which are less "physically laborious" yet often more highly paid than blue-collar workers, who do manual work. They are salaried professionals (such as some doctors, airline pilots, or lawyers), as well as employees in administrative or clerical positions. In some studies, managers are considered as part of the white-collar worker grouping, in others they are not. The name derives from the traditional white shirts worn by workers of such professions. The white shirts are easily soiled and therefore distinguish the workers who "do not get their hands dirty."

Formerly a minority in the agrarian and early industrial societies, they have become a majority in industrialized countries. The recent technological revolution has created disproportionately more desk jobs, and lessened the number of employees doing manual work in factories. Generally, the pay rate is higher among white-collar workers, although many of the "white-collar" workers are not necessarily upper class or of privilege as the term once implied. For example, many jobs in the ever growing service sector have a high dress code despite their low pay, whereas ironically, many skilled manual trades-people earn comfortable middle-class salaries, although the jobs may be increasingly scarce.

Also, an increasing number of companies do not have any blue collar workers since they do not physically manufacture anything within their home country, but instead have an entire hierarchy of white collar desk workers who mostly dress the same. In this type of corporate environment, the ranking is less signified by the clothing, but may be strikingly apparent by the quality of the work space, the responsibilities delegated, the privileges granted, and by the salary itself.

In recent times workers have had varying degrees of latitude about their choice of dress. Dress codes can range from relaxed - with employees allowed to wear jeans and street clothes — up to traditional office attire. Many companies today operate in a business casual environment — where employees are required to wear dress pants or skirts and a shirt with a collar. Because of this, not all what would be called white collar workers in fact wear the traditional white shirt and tie.

As an example of workspace contrast, the higher ranking executives may have large corner offices with impressive views and expensive furnishings, where the lesser ranked desk clerks may share small, windowless cubicles with plain utilitarian furniture. As an example of the differing responsibilities, the higher ranked worker will usually have a more broad and fundamental responsibility in the company whereas the subordinates will be delegated more specific, and limited tasks. The cases of differing privilege and salary speak for themselves.

At some companies, the "white collar employees" also on occasion perform "blue collar" tasks (or vice versa), and even change their clothing to perform the distinctive roles, ie. dressing up or dressing down as the case requires. This is common in the food service industry. An example would be a manager at a restaurant who may wear more formal clothing than lower-ranked employees, yet still sometimes assist with cooking food or taking customers' orders. Employees of event catering companies often wear formal clothing when serving food.

As salaried employees, white-collar workers are sometimes members of white-collar labor unions and they can resort to strike action to settle grievances with their employers, when collective bargaining fails. This is far more the case in Europe than in the United States, where less than 10 percent of all private sector employees are union members. White-collar workers have a reputation for being skeptical or opposed to unions, and tend to see their advancement in work as tied to their reaching corporate goals rather than in union membership.

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Social stratification: Social class
Bourgeoisie Upper class Ruling class Nobility White-collar
Petite bourgeoisie Upper middle class Creative class Gentry Blue-collar
Proletariat Middle class Working class Nouveau riche Pink-collar
Lumpenproletariat Lower middle class Lower class Old Money Gold-collar
Slave class Underclass Classlessness
Social class in the United States
Middle classes Upper classes Social structure Income Educational attainment
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fr:Col blanc it:Colletto bianco ja:ホワイトカラー pl:Białe kołnierzyki sv:Tjänsteman zh:白領

White-collar worker

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